Friday, November 28, 2014

v.4 n. 90 Tokyo 1964 Final Day


The 1964 Olympics have been everything that a track fan could hope for. Today, the final day of track and field competition, will be the cherry that tops the sundae.
We will see if Abebe Bikila can defend the marathon championship he won four years ago in Rome against a strong field led by Aussie Ron Clarke and the owner of the world's fastest marathon, Basil Heatley of Great Britain. Bikila's form is in question as he underwent an appendectomy last month.
Peter Snell put on a dominating performance in winning the 800. Can he win the 1500 today and by so doing, achieve the greatest middle distance double in Olympic history?
Valeriy Brumel of the Soviet Union is the world record holder in the high jump. He is the favorite today, but only three weeks ago he was defeated by his teammate, defending Olympic Champion Robert Shavlakadze.
And then we have the relays, the 4x100 and the 4x400. The US is the favorite in both, but remember we were the favorite in the 4x100 in Rome and didn't make the victory stand. In the prelims and semifinals our passing was spotty at best. The chance for an upset definitely exists. In contrast, the 4x400 should be money in the bank. Yes, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britiain have world record potential, but a win for any country other than the US would be a shock of Billy Mills proportion.

Ron Clarke, running his first high level marathon, is out to make up for what has been a disappointing Olympics so far. He and Jim Hogan of Ireland lead through 15K, but by 20K it is Abebe Bikila who has taken over. Clarke would say later, “I know now that marathon running takes special training”. Hogan is the only one to stick with the defending champion, but by 25K Bikila's lead is 10 seconds. At 30K it is 40 seconds and by 35K it has grown to 2:26. Shortly thereafter Hogan's brave effort to stay with the great Ethiopian takes its toll and he retires.
Bikila won in Rome running barefoot. Today he is wearing shoes, but the results are the same. He continues to pull away until he enters the stadium with no pursuer in sight. Not only has the sergeant in the Ethiopian palace guard defended his championship, he has won by a whopping 4:08 in the fastest marathon ever run, 2:12:11. Before any other runner enters the stadium he is stretching and doing bicycling exercises in the infield. “I could have run another ten kilometers,” he says.
When the next runners come into view, the Japanese crowd comes alive for it is one of their own, Kokichi Tsuburaya, in second. To the disappointment of the hometown crowd, he is passed by England's Basil Heatley on the last curve. Heatley takes silver in 2:l6:19 and Tsuburaya the bronze in 2:16:22. Still national pride flows freely for this is Japan's only medal of the track and field competition.
US fans are proud of the effort of Buddy Edelen who, although suffering from sciatica, finishes a strong sixth in 2:18:12, the best finish by an American since 1928. Billy Mills is 14th in 2:22:55 and Pete McArdle 24th in 2:26:24.
Bikila says he prefers running shoes and will wear them in Mexico City when he will attempt to win his third Olympic marathon gold.
An awkward moment takes place after the awarding of the medals. In a gaff uncharacteristic of the Japanese, the band doesn't know the Ethiopian national anthem. This “oops moment”, a sort of “I THOUGHT YOU BROUGHT THE SHEET MUSIC. NO, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BRING IT” thing is covered by playing an anthem they know well, their own. It doesn't seem to bother anyone. (note: for those of you who wondered what sort of shoes Bikila wore, they were described as “white”) (Check the film, they were Puma's).
Bikila doing rehab in England after his
paralyzing auto accident. He passed away
Oct.25, 1973
4 x 100 RELAY
Lane assignment (and semifinal times) from the inside out are as follows: Great Britain (40.1), France (39.6), Italy(39.7), Jamaica (39.6), Venezuela (39.6), Poland (39.6), USA (39.5) and the Soviet Union (39.7).
The US has been handicapped by poor passing, especially the first one between Paul Drayton and Gerry Ashworth. Today is no different and the Americans lose two yards. Could have been worse according to Ashworth,”Paul seemed to pull a little coming up to me and I got a slow start. It was a good thing I did because it worked out about right”. Obviously “just right” is not the description used by the US coaches.
Ashworth gains back a foot down the backstretch and makes a good pass to Richard Stebbins who gains slightly on the leaders, Poland and Russia. France and Jamaica also are ahead of the US.
This is the moment track fans have waited for, Robert Hayes down five feet on the anchor leg. Obviously it was the moment Robert Hayes had been waiting for also. His instructions to his teammates had been, “Just give it to me close”.
Here is some not so great black and white of the 4x100 and a little bit of the marathon.

This piece is from the 100m sequence in the Tokyo film just to remind you of the power that Bob Hayes developed in his race.

With what Cordner Nelson describes as “one of the most explosive pick ups ever seen”, Bob Hayes goes to the afterburners. Within 30 yards he has the lead and doesn't let up until he hits the tape three yards to the good in a world and Olympic record of 39.0. His victory in the individual 100 meters was impressive, outstanding, spectacular. This was better. No one in history, not chased by a predator, has ever run so fast.
After the medal presentation, a European runner says to Drayton, “You haven't anything except Hayes”. Drayton replies, “That's all we need, pal.”
1) USA 39.0 2) Poland 39.3 3) France 39.3 4) Jamaica 39.4 5) USSR 39.4 6) Venezuela 39.5 7) Italy 39.5 8) Great Britain 39.6. The first five teams broke the Olympic record, the next two tied it. Unquestionably this was the greatest 4x100 relay ever.
This stands to be a close race among evenly matched runners with the prize being the Olympic silver medal. Unless he is struck by lightning, and it isn't raining, the gold medal belongs to two time 800 meter champion, Peter Snell of New Zealand.
The competition includes the best the world has to offer: Alan Simpson and John Whetton of Great Britain, Witold Baran of Poland, Dyrol Burleson of the US, Josef Odlozil of Czechoslovakia, Michel Bernard and Jean Wadoux of France and Snell's New Zealand teammate, John Davies. Maybe, just maybe, if someone takes the chance of his career and sets an insane pace, well maybe there is a chance.
These are intelligent men, experienced competitors, above all realists. Better to go home with a secondary medal than be remembered for setting a foolish pace and finishing last. And so it goes. The first lap starts with some hope as Bernard leads through a 58.0 go around. Then caution creeps in. A 31.3 200 slows the pace to a veritable crawl. Davies takes over and picks the pace up with a 30.2 200, passing the 800 in a pedestrian 2:00.5. Snell, sitting in fourth, must be smiling.
Davis cranks the pace a bit and continues to lead at the 1200 mark in 2:59.3. He is followed by Baran, Snell, Burleson, Odlozil and Bernard side by side, Whetton and Wadoux.  This is where the youtube clip takes up the race.

Then it happens just as everyone thought it would. The bell awakens Snell and he goes to the gear no one else has. To this point the pace had been 14.9 per 100 meters. Snell bursts into the lead with a 12.7 100 and follows that with another 100 around the curve in 12.3. For those of you keeping score at home, that is a 25.0 200. At the head of the stretch he holds a six yard lead. He glances back to assess what more is needed and “slows” to 13.6 but in so doing, stretches his margin to 12 yards. His last 300 has been covered in 38.8, his last 400 in 52.7. His time is 3:38.1. Odlozil surprises for second in 3:39.6, holding off Davies who has the same time for the silver. Simpson just misses the medal stand with a 3:39.7. Burleson, who got himself boxed in the late going, is fifth at 3:40.0.  (Amazingly Bob Schul's last 300 meters while winning the 5,000 was identical to Snell's except it was on a wet track.)
Once Snell said he wanted to run a 3:50 mile before he hangs 'em up. After this race he says he is going to retire to golf and tennis. We'll see. Whatever the future holds, today Peter Snell cemented his place as one of the great runners of all time.

The American team that qualified yesterday ran in the order of Henry Carr, Ollan Cassell, Mike Larabee and Ulis Williams. Not believing the “If it ain't broke, don't fix it” adage, the team meets with coach Bob Giegengak to suggest a change.

They want to move Carr to anchor, a request the coach doesn't favor, but he approves it. The order will be Cassell, Larrabee, Williams and Carr.
For the first time the Olympic 4x4 will be run with three turn staggers. The first runners will be in lanes all the way. The second runners may break for the pole on the backstretch. From the inside out it is Germany, US, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago, USSR, France, Poland and Great Britain.
The first leg immediately splits the race into two sections. Tim Graham's 45.9 gives Great Britain a lead over the US (Cassell) and T-T (Edwin Skinner) who run 46.0. Jamaica (Lawrence Kahn) is right there at 46.1. Here the break occurs as Russia leads the next group at 46.8.
You know you are in pretty good shape when your second leg is being handled by the Olympic champion at 400 meters, Mike Larrabee. The former SC Trojan clips off a 44.8 split to open a margin on T-T (Kent Bernard 45.3), Great Britain (Adrian Metcalfe 45.5) and Jamaica (Mal Spence 45.4).
Ulis Williams' 45.4 doesn't open any ground, but it doesn't have to. Edwin Roberts matches that split for T-T. Mal's twin brother, Mel, gains a bit for Jamaica with a 45.2. Great Britain's John Cooper, the silver medalist in the intermediates, stays close with his 45.4. As the anchormen take the baton, the US leads by half a second over Trinidad-Tobago and Jamaica with Great Britain a tenth back in fourth.
The US has already used the 400 champion on the second leg, so how about the 200 champ on the anchor? The last lap becomes The Henry Carr Show as the Arizona State star clips off a 44.5 split to bring the US team home in a world and Olympic record 3:00.7. Robbie Brightwell does almost as well, 44.8, to pass the 45.0 of Wendell Motley of T-T and the 45.6 of Jamaica's George Kerr to bring the Brits in second. The finish is 1) US 2) Great Britain 3:01.6 3) Trinidad-Tobago 3:01.7 4) Jamaica 3:02.3 5) Germany 3:04.3 6) Poland 3:05.3 7) Russia 3:05.9 8) France 3:07.1. The first three teams bettered the world and Olympic records and the fourth missed by only a tenth.
Scenes from the 4x400 can be seen at the 3:00 mark on this clip.


World record holder Valeriy Brumel is the heavy favorite, but in yesterday's qualifying he missed twice at 6-9 1/8 causing concern in the Russian camp.
Not to worry today. When he clears 6-11½, he trails only teammate and defending champion, Robert Shavlakadze on attempts as he started at 6-6¾ while Shavlakadze waited until 6-8 to begin. American Ed Caruthers misses three times at this height and is out. His teammates, John Rambo and John Thomas, and Sweden's Stig Pettersson all clear on their second attempt. These five move on to 7-0¼.
This is where things get interesting. Pettersson and Shavlakadze miss on their first attempt. Rambo clears on his first attempt, an accomplishment which becomes more important when Brumel takes the bar off with his hand on the way up. Thomas also misses. Rambo, the Long Beach State basketball player, has taken the lead on misses.
On the second attempt Pettersson clears, but surprisingly no one else does. It is down to the last attempt at this height for Brumel, Thomas and Shavlakadze. Adding to the drama, it is 6 PM, daylight is failing and the lights have come on. This is the last event of the day and the crowd has been filing out. Oops, wait a minute, Martha, this looks interesting. Let's watch the rest.
Those who stay are rewarded with come through clearances by the two Russians and the American.
The magic ends here for Petterson and Shavlakadze who go out at 7-1. Rambo needs three attempts to clear and falls to third. Thomas clears on his second try. Brumel is up and over on his first attempt and now sits in first.
At 7-1 7/8 Rambo is out but his parting gift is pretty nice, a bronze medal. Thomas and Brumel clear on their first attempts, but Brumel still leads on misses. With the bar at 7-2 5/8, Brumel doesn't come close, but more importantly neither does Thomas and when he misses his third attempt, the gold belongs to Brumel. Maybe this wasn't pretty, but every time Valeriy opens his sock drawer and sees that Olympic gold medal he won't care.

John Thomas

John Rambo

Note:  John Thomas died January 15, 2013 at the age of 71.   Brumel died Jan. 26, 2003.

And so ends the best Olympic Games ever or at least the best until the next one. As we file out, we are warmed by the memory of Billy Mills amazing run, the dominance of Peter Snell and Abebe Bikila, the explosiveness of Bob Hayes, world records in the relays and Olympic records in abundance.
In 1968 we will gather in Mexico City. How many of the great athletes whom we have seen in the last eight days will be there? For those who don't return, who will take their places? Is there a 1968 champion who as yet is unknown? Only time will tell.

If you haven't read enough, here is the complete Tokyo Film all 2 hours and 5 minutes.

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